West Head Project

A Closely Woven Fabrik
Splitrec 21

Auditory transmogrification of Tasmanian terrain onto disc, Closely Woven Fabrik adds improvisations from three Australian musicians to field recordings, subtly altering the real-time resonance as it’s captured.

While recordist Anthony Magen encapsulates the wild and domestic sounds resulting from a guided soundwalk taking place on Maria Island, near Tasmania’s east coast, reedist Jim Denley, accordionist Monika Brooks and Dale Gorfinkel’s prepared trumpet, roots percussion and automated sonic contraptions add ingenious grisaille to the proceeding. The three-track CD creates a soundworld which is so complete onto itself that applause from the assembled audience, heard on the final track, comes as a shock.

All three Australian improvisers have been involved in undertakings like this before, as well as playing in more conventional setting. A veteran radio artist, Denley sees no clear distinctions between his roles as instrumentalist, improviser and composer. He has recorded with fellow sound explorers such as Norwegian percussionist Ingar Zach and British hurdy-gurdy player Stevie Wishart. Besides placing solo and in combos, Brooks is part of the large Sydney-based Splinter Orchestra; while Gorfinkel regularly works with such fellow Aussies as drummer Robbie Avenaim and bassist Clayton Thomas.

“Spruces” is literally the most organic track since the gentled timbre of bamboo flute, spinning accordion textures and the swelling hums from Gorfinkel’s devices appear as generic to the environment as the lapping wave flutters, percussive footfalls, murmuring children’s voices and the gargles and caws from obstreperous geese and other fowl heard. Isolating the “real” instruments from field recording sounds is possible only because instrumental pulses and gasps possess tempered intonation. This sonic conception is confirmed on the final “Glade”.

“Roots” on the other hand contains the most upfront instrumentalism. The ruffs, glissandi and hollow pops which Gorfinkel extracts from roots create marimba-like intimations, while Denley mercurially exposes alto saxophone lines. As the reedist pitch-slides upwards with diaphragm vibrations and humming growls, the resulting counterpoint recognizes each player’s efforts without any one blending with the other’s textures.

Innate wild life tones on “Glade” take the form of the odd goose honk and aviary twitters that are given additional melodic tonality from Brook’s intermittent pulsing. That isn’t her only role however. Ingeniously she roughens the aural picture with overtone friction. Meanwhile the saxophonist exposes the inner workings of his horn with unaffiliated breaths, reed percussion and spetrofluctuation and is matched by bellow pulsing from the accordionist. Meanwhile the trumpeter’s strained capillary brays and watery spits make common cause with intermittent aviary twitters.

Careful listening confirms the musicians’ sympathetic interaction with the captured natural sound. This also substantiates why the overall session works as well ecologically as musically.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Spruces 2. Roots 3. Glade

Personnel: Dale Gorfinkel (prepared trumpet, roots and automated sonic contraptions); Jim Denley (bamboo and Czech-school flutes, alto saxophone and balloons) and Monika Brooks (accordion)